Unlike any other city in the Netherlands, Rotterdam is often overlooked by is more charming sibling, Amsterdam. When most people think of the Netherlands they imagine brick houses leaning elegantly against each other to keep from toppling over into the canals – not a cosmopolitan city filled with modern buildings. Rotterdam used to be as quaint and charming as Amsterdam, until it was bombed in World War II and nearly all of the city was leveled. Despite having this tragic past, Rotterdam rebuilt itself afresh and now features some of the most interesting architecture in Europe by world famous architects.
If you are looking for a great day trip from Amsterdam, or have more time and are curious to explore the side of Holland outside of it’s most popular city, Rotterdam is a must visit to see that the Netherlands is more than just Amsterdam.
Still need a little more inspiration to excite you to visit Rotterdam? Read on
Cube Houses & Modern Architecture Everywhere
What would a trip to Rotterdam be without seeing the famous Cube Houses? They have somehow gained infamy. Personally, I think they are pretty ugly (sorry!), but they are as iconic to the city as canals are to Amsterdam. You can take a tour of the Cube Houses, or if you’re like me, maybe you’ll find that it’s enough to appreciate their balancing act from the outside.
Rotterdam Central Station itself is impressive – it’s definitely the most modern train station I’ve ever seen. Enjoy a break from traditional brick buildings in Rotterdam and take in the insta-worthy designs – it’s ok, you can do it for the ‘gram.
Right across from the Cube Houses you’ll find the newly opened Market Hall at Rotterdam Blaak hits all the right notes : modern architectural design?Check! Great location? Check! All the cheese and dutch delights you could want? Check and check! If you like the famous market halls in Barcelona (La Boqueria) or Madrid (Mercado de San Miguel), then the Markt Hall in Rotterdam will be right up your alley. The Markt Hall replaced the previous daily market which took place in the same location in Rotterdam for years. Now, this new structure features not only market stalls but a ton of restaurants for you to check out (Jamie Oliver’s Italian restaurant is just one of them). Stop by for a quick stop, or a long meal, and you won’t be disappointed.
Just simply admire the architecture of the bridge – it’s very photogenic!
Take the water taxi to Hotel New York
One of the best ways to enjoy the city is to admire it from the “other” side of the Nieuwe Maas River where you can get great views. And, there’s no better way to cross the river than to take a water taxi – unless, of course, you want to walk across the Erasmus Bridge – but I’d recommend taking it in from afar.. once you’re on the bridge you might feel like you’ll be blown off in the wind!
Hop on a water taxi from various locations in the city (my personal recommendation is to take it from the Maritime Museum, which is walking distance from the Markt Hall or Cube Houses if you’ve visited those first), and take it across to Hotel New York for lunch. Hotel New York is in the historic headquarters of the Holland America Line, the cruise line, which had a famous route from the Netherlands to New York.
Hotel New York is also my recommendation on where to stay when you visit Rotterdam – their rooms have a great nautical theme – and feature portholes! When I stayed there I was charmed by the decor and old school feeling of this historic hotel. Follow this link for more info on Hotel New York.
On a sunny day, sit on the terrace of Hotel New York and take in the Rotterdam sky line while watching huge vessels drift by on the river – you are in Europe’s biggest port town after all 😉
Port of Rotterdam
If you are like me and have an engineer as one of your parents (or maybe you’re an engineer yourself), then you might have adopted a slightly nerdy interest in massive structures, water management or shipping – and why not? These things are hugely important to facilitating our daily life. So, anyway, if you’re into that, then consider taking a tour of the Rotterdam Harbor.
Rotterdam is famous for more than its architecture – it is the biggest port in Europe. Until 2004 it was the busiest port until that claim to fame was taken by Singapore and then Shanghai (thanks Wikipedia).
Book a ticket with Spido to take a 75 minute tour of the port, plus, get even more views of the city. When I took the tour, I couldn’t help but be impressed and overwhelmed by the sheer volume of goods that pass through the Port of Rotterdam every day, and the machinery and logistics it takes to make it happen.
Hit Witte de Withstraat for shopping, eats and drinks
If you ask any local where to hang out in Rotterdam, their advice will surely be Witte de Withstraat. This hip street is home to boutiques, local bars and restaurants just begging for you to enter. Don’t miss Bazar, a HUGE Middle Eastern/north African restaurant complete with all the lantern vibes you could ever need, and NRC, two of the city’s most popular restaurants.
See some of the strangest public artwork
I don’t know how to say this but… Ok I’m just gonna say it. There is a giant statue of Santa holding a buttplug in Rotterdam. The official name for this sculpture is Santa Claus but it’s also known as kabouter buttplug (gnome buttplug). Seriously, this could only exist in the Netherlands, then again, only in Rotterdam! Not saying this is necessarily a must-see in Rotterdam, but then again, when else will you see a sculpture like this in public?
What did I miss? Leave me a comment with your favorite places in Rotterdam!